The Guardian has released a list of the 100 best novels written in English. About 50 percent of it is the usual suspects — Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher In The Rye, Ulysses. But the other fifty percent is bullshit. Here’s why.
The Guardian is being the equivalent of a movie buff who thought The Sixth Sense was overrated and actually prefers The Happening, out of M. Night Shyamalan’s body of work.
Nobody prefers The Happening Stop it.
For many of its big-name authors, the newspaper shirked the author’s most famous and best work — as if the fact that it’s more famous makes it lesser. For example, they included Jane Austen, but named Emma, instead of Pride and Prejudice. For Faulkner, they named a work of his that wasn’t The Sound and The Fury. For H.G. Wells, they named a work that wasn’t The Island of Doctor Moreau. For Kazuo Ishiguro, they named a work of his that wasn’t The Remains of the Day. For Don DeLillo, they named a work that wasn’t Cosmopolis.
Remember when they made Cosmopolis into an unintentionally hilarious movie that made Nic Pizzolatto’s dialogue seem naturalistic?
They left off ‘Infinite Jest.’
As this writer points out, don’t let David Foster Wallace’s sensitive-bro fans color your view of him as a writer. Is Infinite Jest perfect? Of course not. Neither are many books on this list. If you see someone reading it on the subway, is there a likelihood that they have a very high opinion of themselves? Sure. Is part of its popularity due to the author’s tragic personal life? No more than Hemingway’s. And half the books they include on the list are for “ambition” and “cultural impact,” and nobody can deny that Infinite Jest contains both in spades.
This list is genre-ist.
Sure, they included Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but as a whole, there is a dearth of science fiction, fantasy, or anything else that is typically put on a shelf that isn’t labeled “literature” at bookstores. Many novels that are considered “genre” have writing that isn’t up to par, but just as many are beautifully written classics. Where’s Tolkien?
And the number one reason this list is bullshit is…
They left off Margaret Atwood. The Blind Assassin, The Handmaids Tale, Oryx and Crake — nearly everything in her catalogue is masterfully written and engages deeply with our culture.
You cannot make a list of 100 Best Books and leave off Margaret fucking Atwood. It just isn’t done.